Shao Lin Preview

There's really not a whole lot of new information about Shao Lin… except for the fact that it's eight-player.

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UPDATEThere's really not a whole lot of new information about Shao Lin… except for the fact that it's eight-player. That's right - eight player. Not long ago, we got a chance to play Shao Lin at THQ's offices, and a whole bunch of folks were dragged in to play with us so that we could actually see how eight-player worked. What we saw was pretty good.

Obviously, keeping track of who is who with so many people involved is something of a challenge. But a little butterfly the color of the player targeting you appears over your head, so you can tell who is attacking you and defend yourself. All eight characters look like Mokujin, but in different colors. So check out all eight folks fighting in the screenshots.

PREVIEWIf EA's unforeseen euthanasia of Thrill Kill left you wanting a four-player fighting-style battle royal, then you'll be happy to know that all hope's not lost, as THQ's Shao Lin might actually revive your seemingly crushed expectations - sans the blatant gore fest.

Shao Lin is a multiplayer fighting game that Polygon Magic of Japan is crafting for the Sony PlayStation. But the rumble here is to the tune of martial arts - 18th century Ch'ing Dynasty. You play as an orphaned child wandering the Canton province, carefully picking your fights. Videogames.com engaged in some verbal sparring with one of the game's designers, Sumiyuki Ashida, and found out the whole story. According to Ashida, everyone on the development team is a Hong Kong action film fan and wanted to re-create the movie experience in a fighting game.

"We have six martial arts styles in this game," explained Ashida. "They are each based on characteristics of real Chinese fighting styles. The Shao-lin style has a lot of kicks and foot-based moves. The Hung Gar style mimics the movement of various animals. Jeet Kune Do balances both hand and foot moves. The Eight Drunken Sages style is based on trickery in movement. T'ai Chi emphasizes grace and allows for easily linked combinations. The P'a Ch'ih style is the most dynamic of all the fighting styles."

Besides fighting, the game also features an RPG mode, as well as RPG elements throughout, such as the fact that your character will learn as you progress. But since the decisions you make may not always be right, your character may also weaken as a result of your poor choices. Ashida told us a bit about the game's environments. "They were all modeled fully in 3D. They change based on the fighting style selected by the player, which determines the story pathway. The scenery is based on early 19th century China towns, but the game is not linked to anything historically accurate." The environments will include Chinese temples and landscapes with mountains and caves, as well as urban settings; characters are being designed by anime artist Hirotoshi Sano.

But the feature we're really keeping an eye on with Shao Lin, as mentioned before, is the four-player fighting system. Videogames.com first played the game in its infant stage at E3, and it was moving fairly fast, with decent controls for such an early build. Being developed around an original game engine, Shao Lin will allow simultaneous battle among four human opponents. Ashida explained, "It's a battle royal where four players fight until only one remains. Using four controllers, each player controls a single character and attacks an opponent. You'll fight primarily against the one character, and you can change targets by pressing a button. However, you can also gang up with others and attack a single character as well."

The game won't include any magic or weapons, so it's unlikely you'll be able to pummel your opponents with an arm, Thrill Kill style. However, you will be able to build your characters, physically, to suit your fighting style. "The characters can become skinny or overweight or build their bodies into those of toned boxers or even ruffians. The player's game decisions will directly affect their character's body type," said Ashida.

Developers say the game will appeal to multiplayer fighting game fans as well as RPG patrons, but both will have to wait until this October when the game is scheduled for release.

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